Injury Lawsuits: When Can You Sue for Lost Wages, Future Earnings?

When navigating a personal injury case, it is important to understand what type of monetary damages you could collect when everything is said and done. In many cases, personal injury plaintiffs are eligible to receive lost wages and compensation for decreased future earning capacity. Learn more about these damages and other types of personal injury compensation below:

Damages in a Personal Injury Case

In a New Jersey personal injury case, there are two possible types of damages: compensatory and punitive damages.

Compensatory damages are designed to provide the plaintiff with the monetary amount necessary to replace what was lost in the incident. These losses can be quantifiable (i.e. economic) or more abstract (i.e. non-economic), so long as you can prove to the court that your injury and losses were tied directly to the defendant’s conduct.

Compensatory damages can include compensation for:

  • Medical bills, including hospital stays, physical therapy, nursing home stays, rehabilitation, and the cost of a permanent caregiver if necessary.
  • Lost wages, including decreased earning capacity in the future
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Wrongful death
  • Loss of companionship or loss of consortium

There is no limit on compensatory damages in New Jersey. As long as you can prove the amount of damages, a jury can award it.

Lost Wages

Lost wages are one part of the picture of compensatory damages. These damages include compensation for time lost because of the injury (or resulting medical treatment) and loss of vacation days or sick days used because of the injury.

If the injury or illness caused you to miss work, you could reasonably expect to collect damages for lost wages. However, in order to be awarded, the amount sought must be specific and accurate. Unlike general damages (such as pain and suffering or emotional distress), it is possible to quantify the exact value of the time missed based on your salary or hourly wage. It is important for you and your attorney to calculate the value of this missed time and make an informed claim.

Future Earnings

More serious injuries, such as amputation and catastrophic injuries, will undoubtedly have a long-term effect on your ability to return to work and perform day-to-day tasks. In addition, depending on your work, less-serious injuries may have long-term effects. For example, a landscaper who suffers whiplash in a car accident may experience nagging neck and back pain for months and even years after the accident. If this pain prevents him from being able to return to landscaping, he could be eligible for damages for decreased earning potential.

If an injury results in you being unable to work or unable to earn the same amount of money in the future, you could be eligible to receive damages for decreased earning potential. These damages are more difficult to quantify than lost wages, but an experienced personal injury attorney will be able to come up with a standard calculation based on your past earnings, occupation, age, skill, and life expectancy.